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Aug 06, 2013 08:55 AM EDT

UT Professor, Husband Killed in Plane Crash

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The National Transportation Safety Board has opened an investigation into the single-engine plane crash that killed Shama Gamkhar, a 54-year-old public affairs associate professor at the University of Texas (UT) and her husband in rural Georgia, Sunday.

Gamkhar and her husband, Dr. Sid Shah, 58, who was piloting their private plane, were the only people on the six-passenger plane.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, the DeKalb County couple were flying from Fernandina Beach, Fla. to Lawrenceville when their Hawker Beechcraft A36 single-engine aircraft crashed in Alma, a town near Bacon County.

Witnesses reported that they heard a plane sputtering and then a passerby spotted the debris.

"It's just unbelievable how much debris there is here from that one plane. It may be the worse I've ever seen," said Richard Foskey, Bacon County Sheriff.

Roy Crosby, Bacon County Deputy Coroner said that there was no fire at the crash site.

"The weather was good that day, said Crosby."He was on an instrument flight plan with Jacksonville Center. They lost him at 5,000 feet," said Crosby. "He just came down in the treetops at a high rate of speed."

An autopsy will be performed on Dr. Shaw's body.

Colleagues remembered Gamkhar as a generous and caring mentor. She was also an expert in environmental economic policy and a teacher of public finance and financial management.

"We have lost a beloved colleague, devoted teacher and wonderful friend, whose memory and example we will carry with us," said Robert Hutchings, Dean Lyndon B. Johnson School. "Our hearts go out to Shama and Sid's family and friends."

Gamkhar started working at UT in 1996 as an associate professor. According to university authorities, Gamkhar was scheduled to teach 'Energy Issues: Climate Change' this fall.

Shah was a well-known local doctor, who colleagues say, treated hundreds of patients' long-term injuries.

"Dr. Shah was an extraordinary physician and was well-respected by his peers, his staff and his patients. He was an integral member of the Rockdale Medical Center medical staff," said Deborah Armstrong, CEO of Rockdale Medical Center.

"We estimate he's probably physically saved limbs of about 500 patients."

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